Star mountain biker’s gondola access buzz


Kiwi mountain bike star Justin Leov says he’ll spread the word about upcoming gondola access to Bob’s Peak trails as much as he can. 

Tourism heavyweight Skyline Enterprises is modifying its Queenstown cableway cabins so bikes can be hitched on and carried to the top of the hill for a trial period, from January to April. 

When that happens, Leov, arguably New Zealand’s best rider and currently ranked 14 in the World Cup series, plans to hold skill clinics for bikers at the Ben Lomond Reserve as well as train there himself. 

“So I’m going to be really keen to push it, to do as much as I can to promote it,” Leov says. 

Dunedin-based Leov follows the international riding circuit, mostly in Europe and North America, from April to September and rides Bob’s Peak trails whenever he’s in the resort. 

He’s Queenstown-bound next Sunday with crew from Australian Mountain Bike magazine who are compiling an article on Kiwi riding. 

“We’re going to be like ‘this is Skyline and they’re opening their gondola’,” Leov says. 

“If we can impress them, that’s going to bring more people out and it’s just sort of a snowball effect really. You just get people stoked on it, they come out, they tell their friends and then we can turn it into a Southern Hemisphere Whistler, which I guess would be the plan.” 

With gondola access for riders, Queenstown is tipped to follow in the footsteps of top Canadian resort Whistler – where mountain bike tourism pumps millions of dollars annually into the local economy. 

The Whistler model was used as a case study for a strategic plan drawn up by the Queenstown Mountain Bike Club and adopted by Queenstown Lakes District Council’s Community Services Committee last month. 

For example, economic research on mountain biking in Whistler and British Columbia showed the 2006 Crankworx Freeride Mountain Bike Festival – an annual nine-day Whistler summer event – attracted 55,000 visitors alone and lined local pockets with $11.5 million. 

Leov, 26, nabbed second place in the Garbanzo race at Crankworx in August and was top of the podium in 2009. 

He says with world-class riding on Bob’s Peak and upcoming gondola access, there’s plenty of potential for similar competitions in Queenstown. 

“If we could get a Red Bull race, or even a World Cup, it’s definitely the perfect place for it. Queenstown is the right sized town, [the trails are] right there in town,” he says.